Your people are what makes your business unique; what sets you apart from the crowd. And in today’s lean businesses, running with vacancies through natural turnover or expansion, can mean your team struggle to operate at an optimum level.

At the same time, the war for talent means that sourcing the right person for your vacancy is as competitive as it is crucial.

Given this ‘perfect storm’ of scarce talent and critical vacancies, many businesses turn to head hunting hoping that it is the solution to all their recruitment worries. All too often businesses envisage head hunting as a process as simple as pressing a button, before sitting back to await the pleasing sound of top talent knocking on your door.
If there is one truth I have found, however, in my years of recruiting for national and global businesses, it is that head hunting is not a ‘magic wand’ solution. Considering it as such can make the process frustrating both for clients and candidates, and damage your chances of success.

Here I explore the foundations that must be in place before proceeding to head hunt, in order to make the experience rewarding for all involved.


Number One – Head hunting works best for ‘best in class’ roles
When using head hunting services, candidates are approached directly about the position you are seeking to fill. This naturally means that they need a clear incentive to proceed with the conversation – and your recruiter will be far better placed to find suitable candidates for you if the unique selling points of the role are clear.

For example, you might be looking for a high potential talent with a view to accelerating their development to board level. This enticing offer would be difficult for a candidate to resist. You may be offering a unique combination of benefits and remuneration, above the market average for the position. Again, this will tempt the best candidates your way. Or perhaps your role is suited to raw talent, making it possible for someone to step up a level into the position. Tell your recruiter why your role is ‘best in class’, and they will make sure the most promising candidates are seduced by  the opportunity.

Number Two – Head hunting succeeds when the role profile is clear and balanced
To make the best of head hunting services, your recruiter needs a clear role profile to work from. A good recruiter will work with you to craft a perfect description including essential and desirable skills and experience – and any elements of team and brand fit that will help them to find your perfect match.

Creating a balanced role profile is important, as it allows a flexibility of fit. For example, there might be a number of candidates who are suited to the role in different ways; by clarifying which skills and experiences are essential, your recruiter can apply a sharp focus to ensure the best candidates come your way.

Number Three – Head hunting managers must be excited to ‘sell’ their role to candidates
Head hunted candidates are approached directly and may not be immediately familiar with your business at first hearing of your opportunity. Your recruiter will work with the candidate to ensure they understand as much as possible about the role and business, but as the prospective employer you can also really help ‘sell’ the opportunity to the most promising candidates.

Consider, for example, the first conversation or meeting with candidates – investing time in talking enthusiastically about the business will ensure that the candidate is buzzing with excitement about the opportunity, and help you both get the most out of the interview or meeting. If you need the candidate to complete tests or homework as part of their assessment, this is usually best left to a second stage conversation, which gives time for the relationship with the candidate to develop, and helps you assess their suitability through an initial conversation.

Number Four – Head hunting works when you need a timely solution
Finally, head hunting candidates is the best option if you are looking to find your perfect match for your role in a relatively short time frame. A reputable recruiter will develop strong relationships with their candidates which helps to manage their expectations in terms of timescales; however, maintaining momentum in the recruitment process helps to keep candidates excited about the opportunities they are presented with.

Whilst head hunting is an undeniably useful tool amongst the options open to recruiting managers, it is not the best choice in every case. Sometimes attracting candidates through traditional print and digital advertising, or more creative search campaigns, is a better place to start. Before investing time and efforts into a head hunting search, recruiting managers should consider carefully the points above, and discuss different options with their recruiters, to get the best fit solution for what is always a unique recruitment challenge.


Claire Millard
HR factory